Kitesurfing Magazine caught up with a number of brands to find out about the impact of COVID-19 on their design, marketing, and production processes. This issue Eleveight’s Robert Bratz shares the last year’s developements at Eleveight. Be sure to check out kitesurfingmag.com/tradesecrets for updates from all your favourite brands.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Did the COVID lockdowns change your 2021 R&D process, or was it surprisingly similar to before?
Robert Bratz: Luckily, the COVID lockdown caused only small changes to our R&D process. The lockdown had started in March in most European countries. At this time our R&D Process had already finished for most of our 2021 core products. Also our production was in full swing before. During the lockdown it was not easy to manage production but thanks to our suppliers and the effort of their teams we could manage to release our products as planned, in the beginning of July.
Has the timing of your product releases changed? Did the shops being closed for a while impact this, or is it more R&D or factory related?
Our release schedule did not change for the 2021 range. It was a strange situation and I think some brands had to adjust their schedules. At Eleveight we try to manage our stock level in the most efficient way, so that at the end of every season we have fairly low stock levels of our products. Our aim is to avoid a big closeout strategy at the end of the season.
Even with the COVID-19 crisis we had not much 2020 stock left and the scheduled transition to our 2021 was necessary. We had a high demand after the lockdown and the shops were very happy that we managed to stick to our release schedule.
What products are you most excited about in the new gear available this fall?
Our latest addition to our kite range, the ExtremeSeries, was created to push the boundaries of big air. Powerful and playful at the same time, the XS excels in big air sessions as well as in lakeside freeride sessions. The XS is the result of an intense two year long development process, working closely with our international team as well as national riders. We are all stoked on this versatile kite and love it for big air and powered freeride sessions.
In our TT range we added a new performance freeride board: the Process C+. The outline and 3-D shape are identical to the Process V4, but other than its ancestor, it features a highly advanced full carbon construction on the inside. We fused the low-density Paulownia wood core with the latest performance-tech carbon fibers to achieve an incredible, slightly stiffer flex pattern.
We are also proud to add wing foiling to our lineup. Like all of you, we all live and breathe water sport. To develop a new product range created a lot of excitement and brought back memories from the early days of kiteboarding.
The WFS is a 4 meter wing with a dihedral shape (V-shape), inspired by fighter jet designs, excellent for surf and SUP foil riding. The aerodynamics are exceptional thanks to the stiff high volume leading edge with its deep profile. The frame features various grab handles to hold the wing comfortably in any position.
With travel being limited, how did your brand get product photo shoots done?
This year will be different and challenging on many levels. One is the creation of video and picture content. For example, in May we planned our first big photo shoot in Sri Lanka and Mauritius to promote our 2021 range. The situation at this time did not allow us to travel, so we had to be flexible and rely more on local content. Our national teams and the area managers jumped in and offered a lot of help. In this case we were able to arrange many different shootings in diverse locations. The outcome was fantastic and our content has been very versatile for this year.
With more kiters riding locally, do you anticipate a change in the sales mix for your brand in 2021?
I think it is a bit early to see trends and changes in the sales mix. But we could see a general increase in sales in our key markets like in Europe and the US. The demand for freeride products is currently extremely high which most likely shows that more riders upgraded their gear. We also have more interest in our foil and wing range, which is an indication that kiters want to ride in all conditions at their local spots.